Games where you soar through the air at high speeds almost always make for exciting experiences. Air Race Speed accomplishes this with simple and enjoyable gameplay but do too many obstacles get in the way of the fun?
Although Air Race Speed is a perplexing title for a video game, it's actually quite a basic portable racer. All you do is steer a speedy ship as it perpetually moves forward through tunnel-filled stages. As you guide it up, down, left, and right past obstacles while occasionally rolling left and right to fit through tight spaces, it's hard not to admire its addictive simplicity. Being able to glide by without colliding into the many hazards is very difficult. You'll come across narrow slits that rotate, doors that close off most of the track, and fields full of strategically-placed columns. Of course, just making it through stages isn't enough of a challenge so thankfully you're rewarded for how quickly you can do so. Whenever you crash (which will be often), three seconds is added to your total time and you restart at the last checkpoint. Therefore, if you're a fast and careful pilot then you'll likely succeed in the challenging world of Air Race Speed.
Besides gliding along and avoiding obstacles, you can press the boost button to speed up a great deal. This is necessary if you want to achieve gold stars yet it makes the gameplay infinitely more challenging so it's a good idea to only boost whenever you feel comfortable. Once you complete a long stretch (or even an entire stage) while boosting and not crashing; it can be quite the rush!
Alongside the preset stages, there are also endless stages where you see how far you can go down a randomly generated hallway and bonus stages where you fly through rings as fast as possible. Both of these add refreshing variety and provide nifty spins on the basic gameplay. No matter which kind of stage you're tackling, it's a load of fun to replay them while aiming for shorter race times and earning more stars. Overall, there's enough variety and replay value to keep you entertained for longer than the average portable racer.
Air Race Speed looks rather decent. The environments are colourful and sometimes flashy yet they're almost never distracting (which is good because you need to be able to concentrate on what's ahead). Most stages are metallic as if you're flying through a space station while others have an organic texture like you've found yourself in an alien nest. Besides that, there really isn't much variety in the visual department and that's disappointing. On the audio side, you get to listen to an eclectic mix of predominantly strange electronic tunes. In the end, I'd say that it's a mostly forgettable soundtrack although I must admit; my head did bob to the beat from time to time.
My biggest issue with Air Race Speed is that it often requires you to memorize stages in order to do a decent job on them. Sometimes, I would fly through a tough level that has an insane amount of hazards while using boost whenever I could and not crashing once then I'd get a silver star. It's quite disheartening when this happens. One of the most frustrating parts of games like these is knowing that you'll have to fundamentally memorize a lot of the stages just to get the best grade. Another factor that contributes to this is that some hazards can appear very ambiguous. For example, a wall may look like a safe passage from a distance yet you won't realise that until you slam into it. This sort of thing doesn't happen often but it can be nothing short of annoying when it does.
Air Race Speed is a worthwhile portable racer that'll get your hands sweating with its lightning-fast gameplay. It has its problems yet its addictive nature and impressive replay value may have you hooked until you become an ace pilot.
- + Simple yet exciting fast-paced gameplay
- + Endless and bonus levels are enjoyable spins on the basic formula
- + Beating stage times is quite fun
- - Memorization becomes a mandatory crutch in many of the stages
- - Ambiguous hazards are tricky to avoid
- - Not much visual variety